Sign Statement

Below is the Statement Against Censorship through PIOs. We are inviting journalists, journalists’ organizations to sign.

To sign, please send an email to stating “I am signing the Statement Against Censorship through PIOs.”

Your name (and affiliation if you list it) will appear at the bottom of the statement on this page.

Stop The Censorship Through Public Information Officers

You probably don’t know that the federal government has begun censoring much of the information you receive through the news media.

It’s happening nearly every time journalists try to question government experts on health, public safety, scientific and many other issues. Instead of getting through to those experts, federal agencies and Congressional offices insist that the journalists put their questions to other employees known as “public information officers” (PIOs).

PIOs are really public relations people whose main job is to make sure their employers look good in whatever the journalists publish.

This is serious censorship and it’s happening many times every day. It regularly denies members of public information about their government, even on critical issues. It should never have happened in the United States.

Control Through PIOs Is the New American Censorship

This practice has spread to many federal, state and local governments as well as private organizations. Now Americans probably numbering in the millions are forbidden to speak to each other without reporting to authorities.

Because journalists are prevented from talking to staff members without PIO tracking預t the behest of agency leadership謡ho speaks to which reporter, staff members are less likely to tell journalists anything beyond what the agency leadership says, or the “official story.”

These controls are used to restrain reporting in many other ways. They slow the reporting effort. The permission-to-speak process can stretch out for days, far too long for most deadlines. The PIOs often don’t respond to reporters’ contacts. They sometimes substitute another staff member for the one the reporter wants to interview.

PIOs listen in on conversations, often intimidating staff members from talking about important facts. Before and during interviews, PIOs sometimes direct what the staff member may or may not discuss.

Many times on the federal level, PIOs or the people directing them actually prohibit conversations altogether.

The Press Is Controlled, The Public Doesn’t Know

In a survey by the Society of Professional Journalists earlier this year, 85 percent of reporters covering federal agencies said the public is not getting all the information it needs because of barriers agencies impose on reporting. Seventy-two percent considered agency controls over who reporters interview a form of censorship.

Among constant examples, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently would not allow its staff members who had worked on one of the worst tuberculosis outbreaks in 20 years to talk to a Palm Beach Post reporter, with the excuse local officials should do the responding.

The Department of Health and Human Services stopped a New York Times reporter from talking to a federal health services psychologist who had alleged that child abuse was ignored on a North Dakota reservation.

Such controls on speech and press can never exist without being debilitating to the flow of information and ideas. Nor can they exist without people in power using them to keep information from the public.

We, the below signed, call on the current presidential administration, members of Congress and elected officials throughout the United States to commit to work against this censorship by stopping such practices in all their offices and agencies, including that of the federal government.

Please note: Individuals signing the statement are signing for themselves and not their employers.

Charles Davis

Journalism professor

University of Missouri

Jim Dickinson

Founder and Editor

FDA WebView

Linda Petersen

Managing Editor

The Valley Journals

Salt Lake City Area

Kathryn Foxhall

Freelance Writer

Washington, D.C., area

Mary Turck

Andrew P. Pereira

Ray Heekin

Tanner Chambers

Dennis Sadowski

Laura Emerson

Jennifer Abreu

Ron Comings

Josephine Marcotty

Environmental Reporter

Minneapolis Star Tribune

Jennifer Samp

Senior Reporter - KOSA

Doris Booth

Dan Vergano

Ron Dzwonkowski

Retired Editor

Michigan (Detroit Free Press)

Wally Roberts

Independent Journalist

Clara Garcia

News-Bulletin Editor

Belen, New Mexico

Julia Dendinger

Senior Reporter

Valencia County News-Bulletin

Belen, New Mexico

Barron Jones

Valencia County News-Bulletin

Belen, New Mexico

Charles French

Tommy Thomason

Director, Texas Center for Community Journalism